Food Fight – are pavlovas, lamingtons and flat whites Aussie or Kiwi?

October 28th, 2015

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Food Fight – are pavlovas, lamingtons and flat whites Aussie or Kiwi_

With Australia and New Zealand set to face off with one another in the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final, the old rivalries between our two nations have flared up once again.

But nothing inspires more trans-Tasman rivalry than arguing over which nation is responsible for creating some of the iconic recipes that are unique to this part of the world.

To be fair, Australia does have a long track record of “borrowing” elements of New Zealand’s culture and claiming them as our own. Crowded House, Split Enz, Russell Crowe, Phar Lap, Keith Urban, even Appliances Online’s own Krissy Davis… all of these good folks originally hail from New Zealand, but have been adopted as Aussies whether they like it or not.

Could we have also been a bit too hasty to grab the credit for the following classic antipodean recipes too?



The pavlova may be a sweet, light, fluffy and delicious treat to bake in the oven, but it’s fiercely fought over by Aussies and Kiwis.


The pavlova is named for Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, whose “lighter than air” performances during her tour of Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s allegedly inspired the creation of the dessert.

Australian sources will tell you that the pavlova had its debut at the Esplanade Hotel in Perth around 1935, but there are records of the pavlova recipe being published in New Zealand as early as 1929.

Aussies have had to grudgingly accept that the pavlova is indeed a Kiwi invention… at least, until now.

Recent research from Australian and New Zealand historians has traced the origins of the pavlova to the UK and the USA, where its modern form first evolved from a German torte recipe.

WeirdTalesv36n1pg068_Shocked_WomanDun, dun, DUUUNNNN!

The historians, Dr Andrew Paul Wood and Annabelle Utrecht, found more than 150 pavlova-like meringue cakes served with cream and fruit prior to 1926, as well as more than 50 dishes named after Pavlova occurring before 1927.

I guess we both lose this one.



Chocolatey, coconutty, spongey, jammy and creamy, lamingtons are said to have been first made in honour of Lord Lamington, governor of Queensland, in the late 19th or early 20th century.


Apparently Lord Lamington’s chef wanted to use up some leftover sponge cake, and the addition of coconut (a relative novelty at the time) as an ingredient made the cake a big hit.

Or perhaps a clumsy kitchenhand accidentally dropped a sponge cake in a pot full of chocolate on the cooktop and the kitchen staff had to improvise.


Alternatively, the Lamington may have been invented by a Queensland school teacher, and named after the school’s patron, Lady Lamington, who was reportedly much loved, unlike the “pompous” Lord Lamington.

However, the University of Auckland reckons that the Lamington was actually invented in New Zealand, where it was originally known as the Wellington.


Lord Lamington is understood to have travelled to Wellington, New Zealand in 1895, prior to his governorship of Queensland (1896-1901), where according to the New Zealand Herald he was “much taken with the local sweets provided him by local bakers A.R. Levin,” which included “Wellington – a double sponge dessert, dressed in shavings of coconut intended to imitate the snow capped mountains of New Zealand.”

For further evidence, am 1888 watercolour painting by JR Smyth depicts a half-eaten Wellington cake.

The proof is in the pudding… or rather, the painting of the pudding.

Flat White

When international coffee juggernaut, Starbucks, recently added the flat white to its US menus, it had this to say about the drink’s origins:

“Since originating in Australia in the 1980s, the Flat White became a coffeehouse staple in the UK and is now a budding favorite among coffee aficionados in the United States and Canada.”

Oh Starbucks. Them’s fightin’ words.

flat white source: Jessica Spengler on Flickr

In New Zealand, Wellington café owner, Fraser McInnes, reckons he accidentally came up with the flat white in 1989 when trying to make a cappuccino using sub-par milk that didn’t have enough fat content for a proper froth:

“I went over to the [customer] and said ‘sorry, it’s a flat white’.”

But according to Sydney café owner, Alan Preston, he first added the flat white to the menu when he opened Moors Espresso Bar in 1985 – and he has the photos to prove it.

“People say it was here it was there, but no one seems to have any proof do they? Am I the only Cafe owner in Australia who had a camera back in the day? If you reckon I didn’t do it and you know who did, then stump up some proof. One thing is guaranteed. I did it before the Kiwis”

There are a bunch of other claims from both sides of the Tasman, but seeing as this is already such a contentious issue, and that all the participants are likely twitchy and highly-caffienated, it might be safer for us to just leave it here, and instead concentrate on planning some new sledges for the opposition in time for the World Cup…

Mark joined Appliances Online in November 2011 and has since learned more than he ever expected to know about appliances. He enjoys looking for new and unusual ways for to solve everyday problems using typical household appliances. When he’s not toiling at the desks of Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he tries to find time to write the next big bestseller and draw satirical cartoons, but is too easily distracted by TV, music and video games. Mark’s favourite appliance is the Dyson Groom Tool, as he loves the concept of vacuuming your dog. Google+

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